VIDEO: 12 gray whales passing through Monterey Bay

A drone captured a pod of 12 whales passing through Monterey Bay. Photo courtesy of Nancy Black of Monterey Bay Whale Watch. 

A drone captured a pod of 12 gray whales passing through Monterey Bay on Sunday, providing a stunning aerial view of the marine mammals.

The whales are making their annual southward migration that stretches from Alaska to Mexico, where they'll be mating and birthing calves in the warm, shallow lagoons on the west coast of Baja, California.

Monterey Bay Whale Watch biologist Nancy Black says this pod is the largest they've seen this season, which is common during the peak of the Southern migration. Monterey Bay sees the greatest number of gray whales during mid January to early February.

During April and May the second phase occurs when the mothers and calves head north past Monterey Bay. The dangerous dart through the area is met by killer whales that hunt the calves.

And the story of the gray whale is one of success, said Black. The whaling days nearly brought them to extinction, but they were the first whale to recover, leaving the endangered species list in 1997. There's now over 20,000 individual grays. 

Because they are coastal, shallow water whales, Monterey is prime for viewing. The Monterey Submarine Canyon -- the West Coast's largest and deepest canyon -- attracts a significant amount of these whales, putting them closer to the shore than anywhere else on their migration route.